Abroad in Barcelona

By James Matthes

Having been previously told that studying abroad is something I should not pass up, I was somewhat prepared for the adventure that awaited me. Whether I actually comprehended the degree to which this opportunity would affect me is another story. Dunwoody College of Technology’s first ever study-abroad program: Spring 2018. Ten students. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

 Sagrada Familia,  Antoni Gaudí’s best known and final project. Begun in 1882 and projected to be completed in 2026.

Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudí’s best known and final project. Begun in 1882 and projected to be completed in 2026.

Barcelona could not be a better place for studying architecture. The city has layers upon layers of unique architectural beauty. From the 1st century Roman ruins in the Barrio Gotic to the new contemporary revival happening in Poblenou’s 22@ district, Barcelona is a living history of architecture and design. Of course, one cannot mention architecture and design in Barcelona without mentioning the Modernisme movement. The works and influence of Montaner, Cadafalch, Jujol, and of course Gaudí are seen at almost every turn throughout the city.

  By Antoni Gaudí in 1904, the best known paving tile ( panot  in Catalan) in Barcelona.

By Antoni Gaudí in 1904, the best known paving tile (panot in Catalan) in Barcelona.

Even in the shadows of these iconic projects, there is still thoughtfulness and detail everywhere. The tiles that you walk on, to the handles on the doors and the lampposts that light your path; everything designed and all connected by the grid of chamfered-corner blocks that Ildefons Cerdà designed in the 19th century. The thoughtfulness put into everything in this city will continually amaze me.

There is something to be said about fully immersing yourself in a culture and the benefits that come along with it. Although my classmates and I were studying in English every day, everything we were doing was centralized around the Catalan culture of Barcelona. Living as a resident and becoming as close as I did to the everyday life of this city helped me to see the other side of Barcelona, the one I didn't get to observe from books and the internet when I was back home.

  Santa Caterina Market, a rehabilitation of an original market in El Born by EMBT.

Santa Caterina Market, a rehabilitation of an original market in El Born by EMBT.

I personally can see changes in myself, and ways that I have grown since I first arrived in Barcelona. My comfort level when interacting with people there grew exponentially and has only become greater since arriving home. The trip not only broadened my worldview and taught me to become comfortable in uncomfortable situations, but it taught me more things about us as a human race. It has connected me to a different culture and a different people and helped me to see the similarities that we all have. I am truly convinced that the experiences I was able to have will only help me to become a better student, professional, family member, and overall, a better person.

Architecture Toolbox: BIM

Put simply, architecture requires the ability to visualize the big picture while also understanding the many smaller, moving parts. We’re tasked with coordinating the various pieces and stakeholders involved and translating those needs into a successful, built project. Depending on the scope of a project, that coordination can become a very significant part of the architect’s work.

  Aerial view of Devon Yard under construction. Image courtesy of Blue Rock Construction.

Aerial view of Devon Yard under construction. Image courtesy of Blue Rock Construction.

Devon Yard, one of our current projects, is a lifestyle center under construction in Devon, Pennsylvania.  It consists of three independent buildings and several tenants: retailers Anthropologie and Terrain, restaurants Terrain Café and Amis Trattoria, as well as an event center, Gardens at Terrain. This development is the first of its kind for the parent company, Urban Outfitters, and has required substantial teamwork and years of planning to reach this point.

As construction is ongoing, we communicate daily with the construction team to provide additional information and troubleshoot issues in the field. And, due to the project’s size and complexity, always relying on a traditional set of two dimensional drawings can be slow and cumbersome. Fortunately, we model our projects in BIM (building information management) software.

  Three-dimensional section view from Revit, the BIM software used by NewStudio.

Three-dimensional section view from Revit, the BIM software used by NewStudio.

In addition to producing a traditional set of construction documents, BIM provides a three-dimensional model of what we’ve drawn. We can then link our model to BIM models provided by other disciplines, such as structural and mechanical engineering, and create a comprehensive model of the building that allows us to visualize how all the components fit together in three-dimensional space. This allows us to see potential conflicts during the design process and adjust accordingly, but it also comes in handy when a construction team member calls for clarification on how a specific area or component should look. We can move through the model, cut sections, show or hide specific elements, and view aspects of the building that might be extremely difficult to communicate in two-dimensions. 

We’re fortunate to work with a great team of professionals and lucky to have modern software tools that help us save time, solve problems, and meet the client’s needs. 

In Development: Saunas

Recently at NewStudio, saunas have seen a dramatic surge in popularity. What seems on its surface to simply be a very hot room, is in fact a much more nuanced space.

  A 19th century engraving by Olof Sörling depicting bathers in a Finnish sauna, from volume 1 of Finland I Nordiska Museet by Artur Immanuel Hazelius.

A 19th century engraving by Olof Sörling depicting bathers in a Finnish sauna, from volume 1 of Finland I Nordiska Museet by Artur Immanuel Hazelius.

But first, a little background. While they were historically common across Europe, saunas (pronounced sah-oo-nah) are now almost always associated with Finnish culture. This is especially the case in Minnesota, where a large population of Finns settled in the mid-to-late 19th century. While often used interchangeably with the word “spa,” the term “sauna” refers exclusively to a structure or room where bathers are exposed to a very high air temperature, with or without the addition of steam.

In a residential context, saunas usually occupy a small footprint and have low ceilings to heat more quickly and efficiently. This box is surrounded by a vapor barrier and insulation, with the goal of containing the heat and steam generated by an unassuming floor or wall-mounted electric heater (wood-fired heaters, while a more authentic choice, are usually impractical inside the home and require more time and active tending to provide adequate heat). Despite the low ceiling height, usually no higher than 7 feet, significant heat stratification occurs between the upper and lower seats of the sauna. So much so that electrical devices like speakers must be mounted no higher than 24” above the floor to avoid damage.

Our current saunas in development range from a standalone, Northwoods design to a sleek, bathroom-integrated unit. As a culturally significant space with very specific needs, this is the type of challenge we look forward to, and a project type we hope to see more of in the future.

  Schematic cladding options by NewStudio Architecture for a sauna in northern Wisconsin.

Schematic cladding options by NewStudio Architecture for a sauna in northern Wisconsin.

Sports & Architecture

With no major disasters or messes, the super bowl held at Minneapolis last week was a success. The bold north theme was lively and welcoming. Despite of the cold weather, fans were seen roaming the streets of Minneapolis at Nicollet Ave. Mall of America recorded a 30% increase in its visitors last weekend.

Such international and local sports events have a major impact on the economic growth of the hosting cities. Tourists and fans contributes to the economy, more jobs are created, and public health is improved. Consequently, such events impact the architectural field. Major renovations, expansions and new projects develop to accommodate the increase in consumers. These development plans do not only include the sports facilities but also city attractions, accommodations, transportation, restaurants and retail business.

In 2016 U.S. Bank Stadium opened its gates to the public. HKS designed the stadium and was inspired by ice formations on St. Anthony’s Falls and Scandinavian Viking longboats.  Known as “The People’s Stadium” and home to the Minnesota Vikings NFL team, the stadium was awarded to host the 2018 Super Bowl.  Accordingly, the development helped reshape East Town neighborhood to accommodate new offices, retail stores, residential units and a new public green space on the nearby riverfront.

   
  
   
  
    
  
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    U.S. Bank Stadium - Image courtesy of explore Minnesota.com -http://www.exploreminnesota.com/events/32053/super-bowl-lii

U.S. Bank Stadium - Image courtesy of explore Minnesota.com -http://www.exploreminnesota.com/events/32053/super-bowl-lii

Such leagues not only reshape cities but could also be the initiator of major decisions addressing global challenges. On a broader scale and as announced last September, the International Olympic Committee awarded the Games of the XXXIV Olympiad in 2028 to Los Angeles. LA and Paris as the former hosting city for 2024 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Olympic cooperation. Both cities agreed to work together on sustainability, inclusiveness and innovation. Historically, there were cities founded as Olympic cities and developed to accommodate the spectators and their needs throughout the short period of the games. Some of these cities never became part of the urban fabric, some got abandoned and others were reused and repurposed for military services or universities.  LA’s main concept is to use 100% existing and temporary venues with plans to reuse or return all materials to their natural state to avoid the waste.

LA already started their master planning and development of the whole city. The concept extends to four Sports Parks: Downtown, Valley, South Bay and Long Beach.  Each Sports Park includes a festive Live Site, sport showcasing, and multiple dining and retail options. More than 75% of the games will be played within the 4 parks offering the fans minimal travel options. LA making use of their existing venues including the Olympic city at UCLA campus along with renovation and improvement projects for existing metro line, Airport, arena, beaches, and convention centers. 

   
  
   
  
    
  
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    LA Master plan-image courtesy of www.Olympic.Org -  https://www.olympic.org/la-2028

LA Master plan-image courtesy of www.Olympic.Org - https://www.olympic.org/la-2028

Sports are fun events that gather people for entertainment and a powerful drive for change, raising awareness for master planning and addressing global challenges.